Social enterprise has been portrayed as challenging neoliberalism, and alternatively, as neoliberalism by stealth. Here we conceptualise social enterprise as a microparadigm nested within wider political and economic frameworks. Our analysis of continuity and change over a period of political and economic crisis in England demonstrates considerable evidence of normative change in the ideas underpinning social enterprise policies. However, further analysis reveals that the (neoliberal) cognitive ideas underpinning the social enterprise paradigm remained intact. This suggests that policy paradigms can accommodate normative differences within a shared cognitive framework, and hence, are more fluid, and have greater longevity, than previously recognised.